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Photos: Robots on parade

A robot that plays the Violin? ZDNet Australia visited NICTA's Neville Roach Laboratory to see what all the fuss was about. We also discover what other amazing things today's robots can do.
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By ZDNET Editors, Contributor on
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1 of 11 Luke Anderson/ZDNet Australia.

Designed as a fourth-year mechatronic engineering project, RoboFiddler was built by students at the University of Adelaide.

RoboFiddler, sponsored by technology research institute NICTA (National ICT Australia) has been on display at science and career fairs in Canberra. It came second in the first ARTEMIS Orchestra contest, held in Berlin in June.

The competition challenges teams to create devices with embedded technologies that can play real musical instruments.

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2 of 11 Luke Anderson/ZDNet Australia.

RoboFiddler consists of a Dell PC connected to micro-controller to guide a robotic "bow arm" and six metal fingers. 28 notes can be played across the violin's four strings, but only one at a time.

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3 of 11 Luke Anderson/ZDNet Australia.

The micro-controller can be seen here and connects to the PC via a voltage regulator, and to the robotic arms.

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4 of 11 ZDNET Editors/ZDNET

The students designed an easy to operate GUI that can command RoboFiddler to play specific notes, or whole songs.

The program can also convert standard midi files for RoboFiddler to play.

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5 of 11 ZDNET Editors/ZDNET

It performed two songs to an audience of high school students and includes a classic song for beginners -- Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star.

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6 of 11 Luke Anderson/ZDNet Australia.

Megan Lee, a violinist with the SYO (Sydney Youth Orchestra) was on hand to provide some expert advice to RoboFiddler and how it might improve its technique and repertoire in the future.

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7 of 11 Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty Images

RoboFiddler isn't the only robot out there...

Clad in white for the summer season, the newest humanoid robot from Japan's Kawada Industries and partners took centre stage before launching into a demonstration of its skills at an event earlier this year. The HRP-3 Promet Mk-II stands just over five feet tall and weighs about 150 pounds. It's flanked by the HRP-3 Prototype (right) and its predecessor, HRP-2 Promet (left), developed jointly by Kawada, Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, and Kawasaki's heavy industry unit.

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8 of 11 Candace Lombardi/CNET News.com

RoboBusiness 2007, an international robotics conference, played host to a motley crew of exhibitors displaying a wide range of products, from military robots to toys for children to "toys" for academic researchers.

The Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot, or BEAR, from Vecna Robotics, a division of Vecna Technologies has a dynamic balancing system that allows it to crouch and move across a battlefield at up to 20mph to pick up wounded soldiers and bring them back to medics.

The robot can climb stairs and lift a person weighing up to 300 pounds (136kg), including any equipment they might be wearing. While not yet in the field, the BEAR prototype is in simulation testing with the US Army. With Kevlar and other materials added to protect strategic parts of BEAR, the robot should cost "the price of a nice car," according to the company, and be in production in about two and a half years.

Text by Candace Lombardi, staff writer, CNET News.com

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9 of 11 CBS Paramount Television

Carnegie Mellon University announced its 2007 inductees into the Robot Hall of Fame at RoboBusiness 2007, an international robotics conference in Boston.

For the first time, more actual robots were inducted than fictional ones. The only fictional robot honoured this year is Lieutenant Commander Data, the robot played by Brent Spiner on the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Data was honoured for the questions he constantly posed on both human nature and the rights of humanoid robots, said Matt Mason, the director of the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon who announced the inductees.

Text by Candace Lombardi, staff writer, CNET News.com

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10 of 11 Candace Lombardi/CNET News.com

Domo is the robot developed by Aaron Edsinger, a member of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory's Humanoid Robotics Group at MIT. Edsinger has just completed his Ph.D. He spent three years of his life developing this partner robot to work alongside or aid a person.

Most of the computer power behind Domo goes to its vision, which are two cameras positioned as eyes on the robot. Domo's "eyes" can detect human faces and track them, in addition to aid it in finding and handling objects. Tapping it on the arm, for example, will prompt Domo to move its arm and look down to see what's touching it and then look up at the person. It responds to human voice commands.

Text by Candace Lombardi, staff writer, CNET News.com

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11 of 11 Martial Voitier, TEEX Communications

The teleMax, took part in a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) response evaluation in Texas. It provides explosive-ordnance disposal or excellent stand-off capability for hazardous material responders, according to Texas A&M University's Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX). It has a fully articulated arm and features chemical, gas and/or radiation sensors, TEEX added.

TEEX is operated by Texas A&M University. TEEX opened Disaster City, a 52-acre training centre in 1997 to train the state's emergency response forces and firefighters and rescue workers from all over the world.

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